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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

HUGO   VOX   HOFMANNSTHAL                      225

direst poverty and humiliation, and thus he is doubly entitled to
be the leader of a proletarian revolution whose aim is the estab-
lishment of that order in the state which shall give the subjects of
the state freedom to live their lives to the full Olivier, the upstart
leader, following his brute instincts, would have replaced tyranny
by tyranny, while Sigismund's policy is to re-establish authority
on the basis of spiritual values. Whether, of course, a Habsburg
prince transfigured by adversity or a spiritualized Hohenzollern
might, rather than some dog-eyed proletarian with the problem-
atic education of Olivier, have given German poets and scholars
peace and order to fulfil themselves in is pure speculation. But
even as a vision of post-War conditions the play does not grip:
what interest there is lies in the weary throw-back to the pseudo-
Spanish manner - in creeping prose, however, not in singing
trochees.

Hofmannsthal as a librettist is not quite so submerged by music
as that other Viennese poet, Schikaneder, was by Mozart; but to
the generality he is known only as purveyor to Richard Strauss.
DerHLosenkavalier (1911) has the moral unwholesomeness of rococo
libertinage; the other libretti - Ariadne aufNaxos (1912), Die Frau
ohne Schatten (1920; a dramatization of the novel by the author);
Die dgpptiscbe Helens (1928); Josepbslegende (1914; in collaboration
with Graf Harry Kessler) - fulfil their purpose.

Hofmannsthal's comedies are experiments which fail because
of their lack of clear-cut character-drawing. Cristinas Heimrehe
(1908) and its variant Florindo (1923) dramatize an early episode of
Casanova's memoirs; wThat holds the reader Is the Venetian mood.
Der Schmerige (1921) almost belies this poet, who In his person
and his moods is the very embodiment of Vienna, by having its
scene in his native city. But it is post-war Vienna; and in this
period of depression and frustration his moods were changing
and his weary mind was turning churchwards. The critical hero
is said to be critical self-portraiture. Arabella (1933) was his last
attempt in this field.

As a prose writer Hofmannsthal has great distinction, but more
as a suggestive and stimulating if not always convincing critic
than as a writer of stories, into which he spins too much meta-
physical speculation. Die Frau ohne Schatten (1919), in very fluid
Marchenstil (sentences joined by comma after comma), has for its
main theme the brutality of sex relations in childless marriages.